Gary Branfman, MD

Gary Branfman, MD

In the chilling aftermath of George Floyd’s death, we cannot allow the sorrowful wails of family and friends or the furious voices of legitimate protesters to be silenced by the deafening shrieks of destructive riots and the tragic loss of an additional 17 lives.

The painful images of a man gasping for his final breaths of air while restrained by a police officer’s knee must serve as a heart-wrenching wake-up call for all civilized human beings.

As we reflect upon the gruesome images, what have we learned? If we learned nothing, then the death and destruction were truly in vain. We cannot allow that to happen.

Many sincere attempts to expand the dialogue and seek lasting solutions were cut short by comments like, “That’s not the discussion we are having today” or “It’s not your turn.”

When Victoria’s mosque was burned to the ground, the graphic images and enraged emotions encouraged conversations that included not only blatant anti-Muslim attitudes, but simultaneously addressed bigotry, anti-immigration policies, anti-black racism, antisemitism, and anti-gay sentiment.

The assembled crowds and outpouring of support were from all backgrounds and persuasions and no one challenged these expanded discussions as untimely, or “out of turn.” No one suggested that persecuted groups other than Muslims should wait in line until it is their turn to be heard.

We must all be in this, together, and as many before us have emphatically declared, “United we stand. Divided we fall.”

When we discuss a specific incident of racism and bigotry, it is easy to forget that all races, religions, ethnicities and sexual persuasions include victims and perpetrators.

Understandably, many who responded to the George Floyd tragedy were too close to the forest to see the trees. This incident was the tip of the iceberg, not the iceberg itself.

When we artificially attribute the wrath of racism as if it targets one group preferentially, we are amplifying the complexity of the problem. The American enslavement of 3 million African Americans represented the embodiment of bigotry and the epitome of racism. Still today, 40 million people remain trapped in modern-day slavery worldwide.

While the George Floyd incident must not vilify the vast majority of law-abiding peace-promoting officers who risk their lives every day to serve and protect us, we must question a culture that has allowed similar atrocities to proceed unchecked.

The death of George Floyd is not a simple case of a black man and a white police officer. It represents the evils of racism and the abuse of power. Only together can we disrupt the cycle.

If not now, when?

Communities of Faith members:

  • Nafees Ali, Victoria Islamic Center
  • Gary Branfman, president, Temple B’nai Israel.
  • Brendan Cahill, Catholic Bishop of Victoria
  • Dr. John Carmona, Jerusalem Family Praise Center
  • Danna Cole, Executive director, Center for Peace Victoria
  • Jim Ford, president, Unitarian Universalist Church of Victoria
  • The Rev. Willie Mae Ford, pastor of Salter Chapel AME Church
  • Laurel Graham, People of Hope ELCA
  • Intern Kara Hairell-Speed, Christ in the Country Cooperative
  • Osama Hassan, imam, Victoria Islamic Center
  • The Rev. Dr. Wm. C “Bill” Hassel, People of Hope, ELCA
  • The Rev. Fred H Hobbs, Mount Nebo Missionary Baptist Church
  • Sr. Rebecca Janacek, executive director, Promise Pointe
  • Stephana Marbach, Catholic Sister at Incarnate Word Convent
  • Paul Morrison, People of Hope ELCA
  • Cheryl Kester-Schmidt, Christ the Victor Lutheran Church ELCA
  • Mildred Truchard, Catholic Sister at Incarnate Word Convent

Gary S. Branfman, MD, FACS, is the medical director of The Victoria Plastic Surgery Center.

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